NEW YORK (REUTERS, AFP) - A pair of bogeys on the back nine and a rain delay were not enough to derail Dustin Johnson, who shot 19-under 261 to win the Travelers Championship by one stroke in Cromwell, Connecticut, on Sunday (June 28).
Following a career-low nine-under 61 the day before, the 2016 US Open champion fended off fellow American Kevin Streelman after both carded 67s.
The former world No. 1 claimed his 21st PGA title to mark his 13th consecutive season with at least one victory, a feat matched only by an elite group of players that includes Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Tiger Woods.
"I'm definitely proud of myself for continuing the streak… it was a long time between wins though - hopefully it won't be that long for the next one," Johnson said in a televised interview.
American Will Gordon rocketed nine spots up the leaderboard with a 64 to finish tied for third on 263 with Canadian Mackenzie Hughes (67), who shot a 60 in the opening round.
Johnson, who was second at both the Masters and the PGA Championship in 2019, failed to make the cut earlier this month at the Charles Schwab Challenge, when the tour resumed after the Covid-19 pandemic forced a three-month suspension of play.
"Even though there's no fans here, you can still feel the pressure," said the 36-year-old, who rose from sixth to third in the official world golf rankings. "The rain delay didn't help very much because then I actually had time to think about everything."
American Brendon Todd, who had been in the lead after a career-low 61 in the third round, self-destructed on No. 12 with a triple bogey and failed to recover, ending the tournament tied for 11th on 265 after a five-over 75.
After a bogey on the seventh saw him relinquish a share of the lead, Johnson bounced back with a curling 27-foot birdie putt on the eighth to get back to 18 under.
He took the lead on the ninth after drilling a 126-yard second shot to within five feet of the pin before rolling in the simplest of birdie putts.
Johnson then pressed home his advantage on the 10th, stroking in another long birdie putt to go two shots clear. He looked to have taken an unassailable grip on the lead when Todd, who opened with 11 consecutive pars, fell out of contention at the 12th.
But Johnson's serene progress came unstuck on the par-five 13th, when his drive off the tee drifted out of bounds down the left side of the fairway. He limited the damage by digging out a bogey and then hit back on the 14th with his sixth birdie of the day, draining a 16-foot putt to take a two-shot lead.
He narrowly avoided disaster on the 15th hole, when he was forced to remove his shoes and stand in a pond to hit his ball, which landed in the damp turf next to the water. He made par, only to bogey on the next hole, after rain forced a brief delay at the fanless tournament.
By now the biggest threat to Johnson's chances of victory came from Streelman, playing in the group ahead. The latter's hopes of snatching victory, however, vanished as he was unable to pick up any birdies over the closing five holes, reeling off five straight pars.
A one-hour weather interruption as a storm approached halted play with three pairings left on the course, and when play resumed Johnson bogeyed the 16th to trim his lead to one shot.
But Streelman missed long birdie chances on Nos. 17 and 18, and after Johnson safely parred the 17th, he made par on the 18th to seal the win.